Cloud Atlas, by David Mitchell. One of the most exciting novels you’ll ever read: a dazzling, ingenious, visionary exploration of the theme of eternal recurrence, told through six genre-bending novellas. It’s much better than the movie and gets richer with re-readings.
The Tragedy of Arthur, by Arthur Phillips. Witty, self-reflexive novel about a forged—or is it rediscovered?—Shakespeare play called The Tragedy of Arthur. Fans of Nabokov and Auster will enjoy this tale, which is post-modern in the best sense.
The Death of Sweet Mister, by Daniel Woodrell. At once touching and shocking, this Arkansas noir by the author of Winter’s Bone features the compelling voice of thirteen-year-old Shuggie. You’ll read it in one sitting!
Too Much Happiness, by Alice Munro. This collection by a contemporary short story master shows why she won the Nobel Prize in Literature. “Wenlock Edge” and “Child’s Play” will linger in your mind for weeks.
The Maddaddam Trilogy, by Margaret Atwood. Three visionary novels that extrapolate from present-day perils—climate change, genetic engineering, the commodification of everything—to produce a chilling but ultimately hopeful picture of a post-apocalyptic future.
Dear Committee Members, by Julie Schumacher. This hilarious and finally touching academic satire is written in the form of recommendation letters. I recommend it enthusiastically and without any reservations whatsoever.
The Sixth Extinction, by Elizabeth Kolbert. If you’re a climate-change denier, you’ll no longer deny after you read this sobering book about how humans are bringing about the sixth massive extinction in the history of our planet. Every person in the U.S. Congress should read it immediately.
My Life as a Fake, by Peter Carey. This brilliant, piercingly funny novel about literary forgery, based on the real-life Ern Malley case, is also a savvy rewriting of Frankenstein in which the Creature is a poet.
A Girl Is a Half-Formed Thing, by Eimear McBride. Strikingly unique stream-of-consciousness narration by the unnamed protagonist makes this debut novel stand out from the Bildungsroman pack. It’s a challenging but fascinating depiction of sibling love and female identity.
Zero K, by Don DeLillo. The middle section of this beautiful, disturbing novel is narrated by a woman in suspended animation. It will haunt you long after you close the cover.
Best Boy, by Eli Gottlieb. Days in the life of Todd Aaron, and adult on the autism spectrum, told by Todd himself. A truthful, compassionate, moving depiction of ability, disability, and unexpected wisdom.